Today’s guest post is by Cara, a Truth Be Told graduate, and is part 1 of 2; you can read Part 2 here.
That anxious nervous feeling washes over me as I wait for the Guards to come get me. Every time I am moving to another unit or even cellblock I get this feeling. This time its different. I am going to reception, my last stop before I get out of prison. It feels surreal and I can hardly breathe. I will finally stand face to face with “My Jeremy” the man who has walked with me through this life changing experience. I carry my bags to the van and sit quietly on the way to this scary new place that I will stay at for 2 days. I arrive at my final destination; it feels good to know that “My Jeremy” will pick me up from here! This is it!! My last stop!!
“This place is GROSS! It looks like a dungeon,” I think, but don’t dare say it out loud. I am standing in front of a guards’ station and the two guards do not even acknowledge me. After 10 or so minutes, I don’t really know because I gave my watch away before I left Lockhart, they tell me to empty my belongings. I am puzzled and ask “where?” “RIGHT THERE!” they seem to stomp there feet as they say this. So, “right there” on the horrifyingly dirty concrete floor I put all of my precious items.
The guards came over and started throwing my things, my precious belongings, into two piles. When they were finished manhandling my most prized possessions (with gloves on like they might catch some disease) they tell me to throw one pile away and to get only my hygiene’s from the other pile. So I say goodbye to some love letters from “My Jeremy,” a few commissary foods I brought just in case I can’t stand to eat the food in the chow hall, and grab my lotion and chapstick. My bible, Debbie Macomber book and a few pictures of Sarah and my Jeremy, I pack back up and they take it from me for later. I wondered if they were actually going to keep these safe for me or if someone was going throw them away,“accidentally”. I am told that I am not supposed to have my chapstick but they will let it slide. I had already given away my shampoo, conditioner and everything else that the indigent girls back on Lockhart could use.
Next, I am taken to a cell where a woman is laying on the bottom bunk writhing in pain and coughing like a banshee. The guard yells at her to get on her bunk, which is the top bunk, and tells me the bottom bunk is mine. “I am to sleep where this lady was hacking and sweating and God knows what else?? You have got to be kidding me!,” again I think, silently. I ask for some cleaning supplies and this clearly offends the woman in my cell. She demands to be taken to medical. The guard takes her and tells me its not cleaning day and I would just have to make do. She tells the sick woman to roll it up and that she will not be coming back to this cell. Whew, relief and panic both well up in me! The sick woman is gone! I am in the clear, OH GOD I CANNOT CLEAN! I am frozen in the middle of the cell holding my matt, sheet, and lotion. I feel like the color has dropped out of my face. Tears well up when a girl walks by with cleaning supplies and says, “just give me a minute and I will fix you up. Use your sheet for now to sit on and I will bring you a new one.” Relief.
What seems to be an eternity ends when this nice woman sneaks a wet rag dipped in bleach, a dry towel and new sheet through the grungy bars. She says, “I’ll be back in a few to pick everything up”. I go to work scrubbing everything down. I wipe the cell down from top to bottom. It doesn’t look clean but it smells clean and makes me feel 100% better. She comes back and I am handing her everything through the dirty bars of the cell when a guard walks up. MY HEART STOPS! Shit I am going to catch a case and they are not going to let me out! (A case is when they write you up and it goes in your file, they punish you etc. three minor cases equal one major case and they can deny your parole).
The guard says, “hurry up and I won’t see a thing” — thank goodness! (As I reflect on this sickening fear, I realize it was just fear that was letting me think they could hold me there because of that.) I smile sheepishly and hand over the dirty linens. So now I am sitting on my bunk with NOTHING to do. No books, no bible, no pen and paper. I sit and wait. Time for dinner. I go to the “chow hall” pick at my food and go back to my cell to sit…. and wait. I cannot sleep for excitement and fear of the unknown begins to overwhelm me. I go to breakfast at the chow hall, then lunch. Then dinner. I get called for a shower and am handed one of the terrible blue bars of lye soap that I have come to depend on for all kinds of things i.e. washing my panties, bowls, spoons, and hair. I have no shampoo so I merely rinse my hair and wash my body. Once back in my cell one of the girls in a cell down the way asks me if I need a comb. I respond with a yes please do you have an extra. In my mind I am praying, “Please do not have lice”. She throws a comb to me and says don’t worry, it’s brand new! Whew another catastrophe averted!
I braid two braids in my hair, one on each side of my head. I sit and wait. I go to breakfast. “Roll it up”, that’s the last time I will EVER have to hear that again. I gather my items and turn in my matt and linens. I have already given my lotion to the girl who gave me the comb. And here I go… into another cell and wait for hours it feels like. I really do not know. I am taken down the hall where I can see the fence and the outside world through a window in the door. They give me some pants and a shirt and tell me if they don’t fit too bad they’ll do. Now I am in a line of women all preparing to exit prison. They give us each a $50.00 check and a lecture and inspire us with words like “We will be here when you come back”. I mean really, I have NOTHING and they think fifty bucks is going to get me somewhere in my new life, I think as I am in a single file line walking out the gates.
There is only one gate between freedom and me. A little red Toyota pick-up pulls up and my name is called. I walk out and get in the vehicle. “My Jeremy” and I drive off!